Weather Alerts on Your Cell: A Rude Awakening?


A nationwide emergency system in place with many new cell phone carriers -- called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) -- is set to warn you when severe weather strikes, but some Tri-City residents are upset about a warning that woke them up around 4 a.m. Saturday.

The severe weather warning was forecasted to begin 15 hours later -- at 7 p.m.

The system sends several types of warnings -- an extreme weather warning, local emergencies requiring evacuation, AMBER Alerts and presidential alerts in case of a national emergency.

Officials with the National Weather Service said they can't control when the warnings are sent out, saying some organizations are negotiating to figure out bugs related to a system designed to make America a weather-ready nation.

The emergency messages are sent by authorized government-alerting authorities through your mobile carrier.

Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Weather Service, according to the National Weather Service's website,

The NWS began participation in the WEA service in late June 2012.

"The system is very new," Mike Moritz, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Hastings said. "It's only been around for about nine months. There have been issues around the country similar to this, 'Why is my phone going off in the middle of the night?' And those issues are being discussed now, such as if the warning doesn't take into effect for maybe 24 hours, we'll delay notifying you for three hours until the morning, so it's not a perfect system."

Moritz says the job of the NWS is to get weather information sent out as soon as possible.

"As soon as we're confident that an event will happen, we want to warn the public," he said, "And if that's 4 a.m., it's 4 a.m. Maybe eventually these things might be delayed."

If the timing with the alert system changed, it still would never change a delay with a tornado warning or anything immediate, even if it's during the middle of the night.

Not all phones are capable of receiving WEA alerts, but most mobile carriers have more information about the WEA system on their individual web sites.

You can find more details about WEA by clicking here.